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Fred's Story

Fred had a stroke in 2018 and found his recovery plateaued without a long term exercise programme. LEGS has helped to motivate him and provides a sense of comradely support.

I was a social worker and managed a day centre for older people. I also worked in youth and community work and residential child care, so I value the importance of social relationships. I retired in August 2017 and had a stroke in March 2018. When I was recovering in my hospital bed, I thought to myself “well I’m still sucking air”! The physios in hospital rehab were great with me and helped me to start walking again. I learnt then that I could make progress. Then I appeared to hit a plateau and my recovery appeared to stagnate but I realised I was finding it easier to do tasks I had previously struggled with. This has remained a pattern during my recovery. On my discharge from hospital I required a wheelchair. Again, the community based physios were great. As I learnt about physiotherapy, I realised the physios didn’t really have time in a 30-minute appointment to teach me how to do the exercises properly and safely. I have since learnt how much concentration is required, especially after a stroke, to remember the finer points of each exercise. I tried to do these exercises, but I struggled at times to do them on my own and I had a number of falls during this time, which were a setback. I slowly learnt not to be too ambitious, and be more cautious in what I was doing. My balance was affected more than I fully appreciated. I found this frustrating because I used to walk and swim 5-6 times a week and I was used to achieving the challenges I set myself. ​ I joined a local exercise class run by Chest, Heart and Stroke (a charity providing support for people currently at risk or living with chest, heart and stroke conditions). This group physio and social contact was very good for my physical and mental health. I then got botox treatment in my legs and this really helped my mobility. This dramatic improvement really helped me achieve greater independence and lifted my mood as I could achieve my targets. ​ As my therapy was ending, my physio suggested I refer myself to LEGS. This was a real game changer for me. During my initial assessment I knew the physio was really clued into my needs. This was very important for me and I felt really confident joining their classes, because to me they knew what they were doing. When I started the classes I became aware the physios were gearing my exercises to my level of need, despite being in a mixed ability group. This was very important because the physios continued to offer reassurance to myself and other participants only to do what we felt comfortable with. ​ I really enjoy meeting all the people in my LEGS groups. We come from a wide range of cultural and life experience backgrounds and I learn from them different ways of coping post-stroke. I love meeting the different personalities, seeing people come out of themselves and sharing a joke, and our ability to laugh at ourselves. ​ So, what is so good about LEGS? Well, I think it is the regular exercises we do, the sense of belonging to this group of people who are determined not to let a stroke stop them living their lives, a sense of fun during the sessions. The Neuro Café is an important part of my week now. They are a group of highly motivated people. ​ Being in a group physio session is a great incentive/motivator to keep doing the classes. It is hard to do the exercises on your own so the regular appointments help. I also like linking the exercises to daily living functional tasks like polishing and doing the dishes! The teaching input is also very helpful to develop coping mechanisms post stroke and during Covid19 Lockdown

During a recent session in the Neuro Café, the discussion was about taking up new interests and knitting or crochet was mentioned. My philosophy in life, especially during these later years, has been to say that if one door shuts another should open. So many doors had been shutting in my life (long distance walking, tennis, skiing) and knitting was one of them. Even hearing the word knitting that evening made me choke with sadness as I gave up knitting when I was diagnosed with my Parkinsonism 2 1/2 years ago and realised I’ve never said goodbye to it properly. The only door I’d opened was dabbing idly on my iPad at Word games, but I longed once more to feel the purposeful pull of the yarn through my fingers and to know that I was making something for someone who would love and appreciate it.


I resolved to re-introduce knitting to my life. This took quite a bit of organisation I can assure you as another thing I seem to have lost is the ability to sequence and organise myself. I had to search out the needles, find a pattern and find some yarn before making a little hat for the newborn son of one of my ex-pupils. It was a great struggle to get it completed as I kept dropping stitches and finding loops of stray wool or even holes appearing out of nowhere! However, I did finish it, wrapped it up and sent it over to the new dad who was absolutely delighted and sent me a photo of his small son wearing it.


Since retirement, knitting had become a central part of my life. My current project would accompany me everywhere and I would whip it out on trains, airports and whenever there was any sort of lull. It was such a pleasure to knit things for my grown-up children and also for grandchildren, and then I discovered the pleasure of sock knitting, and that was something all the family loved as they are all long-distance walkers and particularly enjoyed wearing a pair of granny knitted socks. But the biggest thing I’d been involved in started from spying a tweet in the autumn of 2013 from the producer of a film about a Lincolnshire family in World War I.  She was looking for knitters and I thought goodness me this has got my name on it as have done much research World War I and also love knitting. What followed was one of the most absorbing and interesting projects I’d had the privilege and pleasure to be involved with. 


Here is a link to the project:


The final event was an exhibition at The National Archive at Kew:


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